Bluetooth and RFID Plant Tracking
Whether you are buying plants for eventual consumption, to spruce up the garden, or for planting a hedge on a property line – it’s important to know that you can trust the tag on your purchase. Organic seedlings, heirloom varieties, new or fertile breeds of Hosta, new strains of Peony – the costs add up. Not only do consumers need to know they are getting the quality that they’re paying for, slight errors in tagging can lead to costly fixes. No one wants a female Ginko tree – it’s important to know the gender of all fruit-bearing trees and whether the variety you are purchasing will pollinate its neighbors. At an early age, the gender of a tree is difficult to determine without nursery to distribution tracking.
Secure identification and tracking of individual plants is a must to guarantee the traceability, quality, and provenance of plants as well as to protect heirloom varieties for genetic heritage preservation. Individual plant tracking reassures consumers at the point of sale and provides nurseries and distribution centers with an ace marketing chip. Besides, tagging plants with tracking hardware provides nurseries with automated data collection. What type of data? This depends on the type of sensors used. At the most comprehensive, tags can also track soil pH, moisture content, ambient light, humidity, temperature, and motion.
Generally, nurseries have relied on RFID tags and transponders which read low-, high-, and ultra-high frequency radio waves. Tags are inserted into the soil of a single pot and read with a wand. Tags must be inserted deep into soil and the roots of the plant must entwine around the base of the tag to ensure that tags do not fall out of pots and remain with the plant all the way to the sales floor. This becomes problematic when wands are not able to read tags due to the interference of water and soil. Consequently, the range of RFID tags and readers is diminished by the interference or the tags become unreadable. Another consideration is that RFID tags require reading by wands or gateways; the tracking system does not show users locations in real-time. Regardless, RFID tags remain a viable option if great care is taken as to the placement of the tags so that they remain readable.
Bluetooth LE Tags
Another solution which provides tracking in real-time is tagging pots with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons. Beacons are small devices which transmit packets of data to nearby gateways or smart devices. These packets may contain information regarding humidity, light levels, temperature, and motion. Through tri-lateration, beacons are tracked in real-time and their location can be visualized through software or custom applications. Unlike RFID tags, beacons require batteries, commonly coin lithium-ion, but these batteries can last years and fleet management software can keep nurseries apprised of the battery life and health of all deployed beacons. By automating many of the steps of traditional RFID systems, less human labour is needed, fewer plants are disturbed, and audits and inventory checks are effortless.